"The Wiz" Blu-Ray, DVD Movie Review

12/16/2010 Posted by Admin

"The Wiz"

Blu-Ray, DVD Movie Review

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Written by Joel Schumacher, Rated PG, 134-minutes.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

A reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz" isn't necessarily the worst idea ever, especially with Motown's legendary songwriter Quincy Jones providing the music. Motown even hired veteran director Sidney Lumet to helm the picture, so with this wealth of talent on display, what went wrong with "The Wiz," which now is available on Blu-ray disc?

"The Wiz" overloads the screen with almost everything. It's inconsistent production values and, more surprisingly, inconsistent soundtrack, leaves the film stranded with no ruby slippers.

The film sets "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in late-'70s Harlem. Diana Ross takes over the roll as Dorothy, a young girl who's never left her neighborhood until a blizzard sends her to Oz. There, she meets a brainless Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), a heartless Tin-Man (Nipsey Russell) and a cowardly lion (Ted Ross). The team then searches out the Wizard of Oz (Richard Pryor), who can solve their problems and send Dorothy home.

Motown's impressive cast does their job with enough soul to keep things entertaining. Ross' lip quivering apprehension and Jackson's madcap, unstable Scarecrow joyfully dance down the yellow brick road to the delight of audiences. These two, along with the rest of the cast, exaggerate their parts to the fullest--and it’s well appreciated.

The world around them is the problem. Lumet spreads his budget two thin--he ignores the small things audiences take for granted. Actors frequently move out of sync with the poorly edited soundtrack, leaving their mouths moving on a silent screen. The world of Oz is simultaneously gloriously rich and undeniably cheap, sometimes in the same scene, making many of the enormous sets laughable and the make-up design horrifying.

Lumet overextends the dance numbers, as well, and since they don’t move the characters forward, it slows the film down tremendously. The film cries for an antagonist, but because we’ve spent so much time dancing around villainous garbage cans, Lumet only dedicates one scene to the Wicked Witch of the West, Evillene (Mabel King).

This wouldn't be such a problem if the songs were good, but Jones' soundtrack is some of the worst material of his career. The songs are too long, too generic, too similar to be of any value.

"The Wiz" is a bloated and missed opportunity. Its star-studded cast sidesteps the mistakes of their director and songwriter to no avail. They remain trapped in a disappointing new world that remains one of Motown's few blunders.

Grade: C-

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